Seiya Suzuki‘s 30.1% strikeout rate is a little alarming, particularly when you look at how high it’s been since 4/20. Even though that date was used mainly for the pun, the right fielder was striking out in just 20.9% of his plate appearances through April 19 as he jumped out to a scorching start. Some of his subsequent descent has been natural regression and most of it is from pitchers adjusting to his tendencies.
But make no mistake: Umpires have had a hand in it as well. Suzuki is a very patient hitter whose knowledge of the strike zone has been evident since he first joined the Cubs in spring training, but what was also very clear right from the start is that umpires were not going to do him any favors. In fact, Codify Baseball tweeted Friday that Suzuki has been hosed by more bad strike calls than any other hitter in MLB so far this season.
Too inside or too outside to catch any of the strike zone but still called a strike. No major league hitter has suffered more of these calls this season than Seiya Suzuki. Two dozen! pic.twitter.com/jKOIlLjUMa
— Codify (@CodifyBaseball) May 27, 2022
Not all of the 24 bad calls that have gone against him were for strike three, of course, but even an incorrect first or second strike can change the complexion of a plate appearance. And when those bad calls turn into a trend, which appears to be the case, they can change a hitter’s general mentality at the plate. Like how Suzuki has gone from chasing just 11% of the pitches he saw through April 19 to the 26.4% O-Swing rate he’s put up since.
In the interest of fairness, I should note that he’s swinging at a lot more pitches in general since that incredibly patient stretch to open his MLB career. He has also taken perfect offerings with frustrating frequency. The bigger issue is that he continues to be assessed strikes on pitches that were never close and pitchers are smart enough to exploit that. So the solution is to either expand his zone and risk whiffs and weak contact or keep taking and hope umpires figure out what the hell they’re doing behind the plate.
When do the robots take over again?